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3 Tips for Leading A Successful Video Edit Session

Danny Greer

Increase your success as a video editor by intensifying client engagement and satisfaction in the post-production process.  Follow these tips to lead better edit sessions.

When a client employs you for video editing they are paying for your creativity, technical skill and your ability to deliver a quality product.  They know enough about you, or have seen examples of your work, to trust in your expertise.  You’re the authority, so it’s imperative that as you embark on a project together, YOU take control of the editing process.

As captain of the edit it’s important to follow these critical principles for driving the post-production process.  By adhering to these concepts you’ll:

  • Have a clear view of the creative process
  • Foster client trust and collaboration
  • Insure a smoother project experience
  • Be better prepared for future projects

Video Editing Flightplan

1.  Create and Follow A Flight Plan

When you get on a plane, you trust that the captain will take you to your destination.  If the captain doesn’t know where they’re going, the whole plane’s in trouble. 

Before you make the first video cut, outline with your client their objectives for the project and edit session.  Ideally this should be done in the proposal stage of the project (if proposals are filled by a producer they might be the ones obtaining this information).

A good start is to ask the following post-related questions:

  1. What are the technical specs (frame rate, codec, resolution, etc)
  2. What’s the look or feel of the project?
  3. Who is the intended audience?
  4. Will the project require any special graphics or effects?
  5. When is the project due?
  6. How much time is budgeted for each step in the process (rough cut, fine cut, deliverables, etc).
  7. What will the final deliverables be (DVD, web, file type, etc)?
  8. How do you prefer to edit? (see below)
  9. Any other specific instructions?

If the client is in-house, step away from behind the computer and go over this information with them face-to-face.  If you’re working remotely through online approvals, send these questions via email before the edit session (the earlier the better).

This is also a good opportunity to add your own suggestions and recommendations for the project.  If the client’s expectations are unrealistic or you foresee any issues, now is the time to speak up.  Being on the same page and knowing expectations upfront will prove for a much smoother editing experience.

Video Editing Communication

2.  Keep Your Passengers Informed

A plane’s captain often comes on the intercom during a flight to touch base with the passengers.  It’s up to the video editor to do the same.  Involve your clients in the post-production process.

Although many clients lack the technical ability to edit video, they enjoy the process. As an editor, it’s your job to keep them involved.  If you’re working with clients in-house you can speak out the editing processes as you’re completing them (ex “Now I’m adding a matte to this interview subject.”)  Yes, it may seem odd at first, and it does take some getting used to, but I’ve worked with many clients that appreciated being apart of the process on that level.  Other clients may prefer to take more of a hands-off approach.  Either way, establish up-front what their preference is for involvement.

If you’re working with a new client that hasn’t been involved in an editing project before, explain to them how it usually works, the steps you take to create the final product (cut, color correction, encode, etc).   Keeping clients involved in the editing process typically results in them ‘buying-in’ more to the final product.  After all, they played a significant part in how it turned out.

Video Editing Debriefing Edit Session

3.  Debrief With Those Involved

Take a look back at a project’s post-production path.  What worked, what didn’t?  Most importantly, what can you do better next time?

It’s easy for an editor to hand deliverables off to a client and move on to their next project, but they’d be missing a beneficial step in the post process.  Upon completion, it’s good practice to look at your projects critically and jot down some notes.  If you came up against any major obstacles, take record of that.  Also include things that worked well, maybe particular aspects of the project that your client was happy about.

If the project was for a repeat client, you may want to consider sharing any relevant notes with them and garner their reactions to the process.  If you came up against a problem due to the shortcomings of someone else on the production team, you will likely want to share that note with them (ex. the soundperson didn’t record the correct audio channels).

If there is a chance you will be cutting a similar video, in the future it’s imperative to record any ‘red flags’ that need to be addressed before doing that shoot or edit. Also compare the time you budgeted for post versus the actual time it took for completion.  This allows you to better estimate times in future proposals.

One handy trick is to create an Excel document just for this purpose.  Revisit it after you’ve completed an edit.  Include the following columns:

  • Project Name
  • Client Name
  • Budgeted Time
  • Actual Time
  • Positives of the experience
  • Negatives of the experience
  • Red flags
  • Additional Notes

Increase efficiency by developing a plan for your post-production sessions and following it through.  In doing so, you’ll increase client communication, engagement and satisfaction.  Now, go get ‘em, captain.